Mark Green’s Swan Song


By Kate Rose

Heading back to his campaign headquarters after his last campaign stop yesterday at Jamaica Center in Queens, Mark Green said, “Between now and when this appears, I have an interesting variable. By tomorrow morning, you’re going to be the same, I will not.”

Before the polls closed last night, Green explained that when he decided to run for Public Advocate again, he knew there were “risks involved, and costs involved.” But, he said, “On a reward to risk basis, I really wanted to do it for one undeniable fundamental reason — I love public service. I thought I was good at it.” Green added that when people questioned why he wanted to run for the same office again, he’s often said, “Well, if Wayne Barrett can keep being an investigative reporter at the Village Voice, and Derek Jeter can keep hitting, can keep playing short stop, and Bob Caro can keep writing biographies of LBJ, I’d like to continue doing what I enjoy, and add value to it.”

In 1993, Green was elected the city’s first Public Advocate with 60 percent of the vote. In 1997 he was re-elected with 73 percent, winning more votes in the election than Mayor Giuliani. Along with the eight years Green served as advocate, he also had unsuccessful bids for U.S. Congress {House and Senate}, Mayor, and Attorney General.

In 2006, when Green lost the Attorney General race to Andrew Cuomo, he vowed that he wouldn’t seek another elected office. But a confluence of events inspired his decision to run again in 2009, he said. “Bloomberg was pushing for term limits, which I found offensive and un-democratic. Betsy Gotbaum said she wasn’t running. The economy was going into the toilet, and you had to be a Martian not to be aware of the promise of Obama nationally.” In the fall of 2008, Green went home and told his wife that Gotbaum wasn’t seeking a third term as Public Advocate, even though legally, she now could. “And my wife who has been through too many campaigns and doesn’t much like the process astonishingly said, ‘Maybe you should.’ I said ‘Who are you?’ And things kept going from there.”

Initial polls showed Green as the front-runner, but Bill de Blasio pulled ahead and took more votes in the September 15 primary, leaving the two to participate in yesterday’s runoff. As Green handed out campaign flyers near Jamaica Center yesterday, he heard from voters as they gave him a a steady stream of “Hey Mark!” and “I voted for you already.” One man asked Green if he remembered when they met on the street in 1986, while another recalled, “I voted for you against D’Amato.” Green said all of his campaign stops throughout the day made him feel, “grateful, energized and optimistic, because of the delusion that many candidates feel…People run up to you and say, ‘Oh my God it’s you! And I voted for you! And you tend to think — I’m getting between 98 and 100 percent of the vote.”

Asked about the miserably low turnout for the runoff, Green said there was no excuse for it. “It’s almost like it’s more of a private selection than a public election…People think you’ve got to get 50 percent plus 1 to win, which is still technically true…But, actually it looks like you need 3 percent of the 3 million registered Democrats to win a city-wide office. I admit, I never anticipated that happening…and I think it’s a problem for the city — in not only this, but future elections.” Asked about media coverage of the process, he added, “The media pay very little serious attention to any race below that of a governor and mayor — and I think that also suppresses interest in the vote.”

Green lost yesterday’s runoff to de Blasio, 37.5 percent to 62.5 percent. In his concession, Green congratulated de Blasio saying, “He had a strategy that correctly assumed that a great field operation in [an] unprecedentedly low turnout was the best route to victory.” Green added that although he won’t be out of the public eye, he will not seek another elected office. “I leave that to politicians more skilled than I. For me, campaigns were a route to public service — not an end in and of themselves. Now, there will be other ways to serve, which I very much look forward to.”